Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"It's just an old sparrow!" & Lark Sparrow (#1)

"It's just an old sparrow!" or "Ach! those dirty little sparrows!" are some of the recurring statements I remember my mother and grandmother uttering when they'd encounter a sparrow building a nest in an undesirable location such as on a porch or barn rafter.  Undoubtedly the culprit was a House Sparrow. So for most of my life sparrows didn't count as anything interesting to me - just a little boring brown bird - not worth the time to investigate.  Even when I decided to start taking bird pictures a few years ago, I still held the mentality - sparrows don't count. After several hours of traipsing through forests and fields stalking and photographing birds, I'd return home eager to put my memory stick into the computer to see what I had captured. Then I'd see a picture of a sparrow and be dissappointed that it wasn't something more interesting or colorful. "Ach! just a sparrow!" There was a span of time when I didn't even bother clicking the shutter if I saw it was a sparrow that showed up in my viewfinder.  I think I finally started condescending to taking sparrow photos when I went off on a bird hunting jaunt and couldn't find anything else, or it was just too close and irrisistable not to take a photo.

Well, one day this past May, while I was out searching out Indigo Buntings (now there's a colorful bird worth my time - not a boring little brown bird) at Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve near Rockford, I snapped a photo of a bird that was rummaging around in a brushy field next to the tree line that I often spot Indigos. I couldn't identify the bird at first, hoping perhaps it might be an Indigo.  Then as I crept closer, I could see it wasn't an Indigo Bunting, but a sparrow looking type bird - "Ach! stupid sparrow!"  So I kept moving and didn't bother taking any other pictures of that bird.  Eventually I found and photographed my desired Indigo and happily went home with the victorius feeling of a successful hunt.  When I popped my memory stick into the computer and scanned through my pics, I came upon that unidentified sparrow type bird. I saw that it wasn't one of the usual four sparrows I encounter: House,  Song, Field or Chipping Sparrow. Because I was a fair distance away when I zoomed in on this bird, the pic was soft but still clear enough to research its identity. I soon identified it as a Lark Sparrow. I had never heard of a Lark Sparrow and it had a very interesting head pattern of reddish, black and white. I thought, "This is a beautiful bird." and I wished I had taken more time to get a better photo. I'll include the photo of this Lark Sparrow (Below, 5-16-10, Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve), not because it's a good photo (it's not), but because it's this bird that has transformed my a bad attitude about sparrows. This bird is like a sparrow therapist, or the Dalai Lama of Birds, which made me see the light and adjusted my bad attitude toward sparrows. If only the world worked as simply as this.

Blurry Lark Sparrow (Dalai Lama) at Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve

For the rest of the spring and summer, I made it a point not to ignore sparrows or sparrow-like birds, but even to actively seek them out.  I even went back to the site of my enlightenment hoping to get another glimpse of my beloved Dalai Lama of Lark Sparrows, but Alas, I never saw it again.

Identifying sparrows is very challenging because there are such subtle differences between many species, and for many of my photos I am still not altogether certain of my identification between one or another species.  And I am just a novice at recognizing and remembering the many Sparrow songs. Nevertheless, for the next few days I'll showcase the result of my Summer Sparrow hunt.  I felt proud that I have photographed and identified eleven different Sparrow species... That was until I found out that in The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern (and Western) North America there are listed 36 different species of Sparrows (32 in the Eastern Guide and 30 in the Western Guide - but had 4 not in the Eastern Guide) that exist on our continent. So that leaves me only ... um ... 25 more to go. 
Ach! Stupid Sparrows

1 comment:

~Val said...

I really enjoy your commentary... :-*